It's been 26 years since Gordon Gekko of Wall Street pronounced greed is good. We won't take it that far.
What we would say, however, is that paying your bills on time is excellent. Saving some money each pay period is spectacular. Having resources to splurge from time to time is magnificent.
The key to enjoying those types of luxuries is finding a good-paying job. Our Best Jobs of 2013 features a buffet of remunerative occupations spanning the six industries we cover, even the stereotypically starving-artist filled creative industry. Here are those 19 jobs, where both earnings and employment opportunity are ample:
1. Art Director
Average Wage: $95,500
Those professionals responsible for conceptualizing and actualizing the style and image of a publication and product made nearly $100,000 in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It's not hard to understand why, when you consider the job's assorted duties, which include spearheading the overall "look" of a publication, advertising campaign, or theatrical production (for the stage as well as the large and small screen), determining a budget and project plan, communicating with clients, and hiring and supervising a design team. The weighty responsibilities of the job usually require applicants to have the necessary training, creativity, and experience, so many become art directors after working as professional artists, photographers, and graphic designers.
Average Wage: $114,490
This job might be your calling if you don't mind juggling. Working as a business operations manager requires the skill to manage both projects and people, and it's best occupied by the super-organized. Being super-educated can also be an asset, as the BLS reports that many managers have at least a bachelor's degree, and often a master's degree in business administration. Regardless of whether you possess the degrees or not, most ascend into this position from a lower-level job. Opportunities for business operations managers exist in a variety of fields, and the average salary was $114,490 in 2011.
Average Wage: $82,710
Civil engineers deal with infrastructure, and could be found working on the design side, knee-deep in construction, or heavily engrossed in research and education. The BLS predicts that this field will grow steadily for the next decade, with particular opportunity for engineers interested in rebuilding aging bridges, levees, dams, and transportation systems. For their work, prospective civil engineers can expect a salary of about $82,710.
Average Wage: $82,320
This collaborative career involves the analysis of computer systems within a business. That could mean implementing new systems, ensuring their proper quality through testing and software updates, training on proper use, and recommending new systems when the current ones become obsolete. The average salary for a computer systems analyst was $82,320 in 2011, but the highest-paid made substantially more—in Bridgeport, Conn., computer systems analysts earned approximately $100,900.
Average Wage: $87,740
Financial analysts study current and historical data, economic trends, and investments to advise businesses and individuals on how to buy and sell investments. It's a high-pressure occupation and those in it often work between 50 and 70 hours a week, but the stress and long hours are usually rewarded with a good salary. The average analyst earned nearly $90,000 in 2011.
Average Wage: $120,450
It's fitting that those with the role of supervising the financial health of companies would be solvent themselves. To do their job, which includes preparing financial statements and forecasts, studying market trends, and approving budgets, financial managers must have exceptional organizational and analytical skills, and, of course, a knack for numbers. In 2011, analysts earned an average salary of $120,450.
Average Wage: $130,490
As kids, we simplify our career aspirations into generic terms, like doctor, fireman, policewoman, lawyer. We're socialized to respect these professions for their assumed security, for how they serve the greater good, and also, for the comfortable salaries they often provide. This is certainly the case for lawyers, who made an average salary of $130,490 in 2011. Specializations, such as criminal law, corporate counsel, taxation, litigation, or family law, can affect your compensation, as can experience level.
Average Wage: $87,980
There's a saying that you have to spend money to make money. Sometimes organizations need an outside assessment of how best to increase their revenue and decrease redundancies, and to do that, they hire—and pay—a management analyst. These organizations typically pay well for the service: In 2011, management analysts had an average salary of $87,980, while the highest earners pulled in well above six figures.
Average Wage: $116,010
A frequent Mad Men scene: A focus group convenes to observe how and why women use Pond's Cold Cream (in an episode called "The Rejected") or how pet owners would feel about giving their dogs food made from horse meat ("The Gypsy and the Hobo"). Real-world marketing managers conduct this research, then use it to formulate a successful advertising campaign. In 2011, the average marketing manager earned $116,010, but some of the highest-paid command salaries greater than $170,000.
Average Wage: $112,160
Working as a pharmacist and understanding how medicines affect a patient's medical condition and lifestyle, plus how those medicines interact with other medications, is a tall task honed through study and experience. But running a pharmacy counter also requires exceptional customer-service skills and patience. Once you earn your white coat, you can expect an average salary of around $112,000 a year. Several cities in California pay particularly well—pharmacists in El Centro, Napa, and Santa Cruz earn more than $140,000.
11. Sales Manager
Average Wage: $116,860
Sales managers don't usually sell. But they do establish territories, set goals, and offer guidance to those who do. Most managers become qualified for their position through their own tried-and-tested experience working in the field—the BLS reports that employers often look for applicants who have spent up to five years working in a related occupation, such as sales representative or purchasing agent. Rising to a managerial position usually means less time on the road and more money in the bank: Salaries eclipsed $115,000 for sales managers in 2011.
Average Wage: $92,080
This job is not just well-paying, but fast-growing: The BLS predicts employment for software developers should grow by 30 percent by 2020, to meet burgeoning demand for more computer systems and applications (to be created and maintained) across various industries. The field is competitive, requires specialized training, and usually mandates working more than 40 hours a week. But the skills and sacrifices are rewarded with an average salary of $92,080.
13. Web Developer
Average Wage: $81,670
A good developer understands a Web user's browsing habits and uses that to design functional, informative, and aesthetically pleasing websites. The position requires creative chops, but ample analytical skills as well, not to mention a command for various computer languages. The multifaceted job description ensures a lucrative salary, with the BLS reporting that Web developers earned about $81,670 in 2011.
Average Wage: $93,900
So-called "blue-collar professions" don't equate to bill-paying blues. For example, the managers who coordinate, budget, and supervise the daily activities of a construction project earn somewhere between $50,000 and $150,000. The average salary for a construction manager in 2011 was $93,900, according to the BLS.
Average Wage: $142,740
Dentist is our No. 1 job of 2013. Partly due to a low unemployment rate. Partly due to projected growth this decade. And definitely due to astronomical salary. As in other medical jobs, a dentist's pay can fluctuate based on experience, location, specialty, and hours worked. Still, the BLS reports that those who diagnose and treat oral problems earned an average $142,740 in 2011. Towns in North Carolina and Texas particularly compensate dentists well.
Average Wage: $183,170
It's a gross overestimation that all physicians are rolling in dough, since the pay scale in this field is affected by experience, reputation, geography, specialty, and even personality. Still, most medical doctors earn good salaries. The BLS reports that internists made an average salary of $183,170 in 2011. Anesthesiologists, general surgeons, and obstetricians often earn salaries greater than $250,000 a year.
17. IT Manager
Average Wage: $125,660
We're a society dependent on technology. It influences how we work and what we work on, and if it fails, so does our productivity. It's understandable that the person who triages our technical problems and maintains our computer systems, an IT manager, would be well-paid. In 2011, IT managers earned an average salary that was not only above $80,000, but above $120,000.
Average Wage: $83,550
This type of engineering elevates a mechanical device from conceptual to functional, and has duties that sometimes overlap with other engineering fields like aerospace, civil, electrical, and chemical. In 2011, the average mechanical engineer made $83,550, but those in this field have the potential to earn considerably more. Top-paying metro areas like Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Bloomington, Ill., pay their mechanical engineers $128,890 and $117,420, respectively.
[See: The 100 Best Jobs.]
Average Wage: $82,900
Do you have more of an affinity for animals than people? Perhaps you're more of a D.V.M. than an M.D. or D.D.S. Veterinarians (Doctors of Veterinary Medicine) don't usually earn as much as physicians or dentists, but they do command handsome paychecks. In 2011, the average salary for a veterinarian was $82,900. And whereas human doctors could spend nearly a decade training to receive a stethoscope, animal doctors could begin practicing once they complete a four-year program, pass their licensing exam, and possibly—though not necessarily—finish a one-year internship.